We need to grieve all women murdered by men. Not just those deemed worthy by the mainstream media.

Women killed by men
Support us and go ad-free

Women across the UK continue to grieve the loss of Sarah Everard, murdered while she was walking home. Her alleged attacker is a Metropolitan police officer: a cog in a system that claims to keep women safe, but in reality does very little to protect us.

While all of us know Sarah’s name, how many know the names of Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman? Or of Wenjing Xu? Or Geetika Goyal and Blessing Olusegun? How many news headlines have they taken up? And why aren’t we just as outraged by their murders?

Sadly, Sarah’s death is a stark reminder that not only do we live in a misogynist society, but that we also live in a white supremacist one. You see, Bibaa, Nicole, Wenjing, Geetika, and Blessing were Women of Colour. It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that mainstream media coverage didn’t get to anywhere near the same levels. After all, these news outlets are racially-biased and are essential in upholding a racist society. As I’ve reported before, the experience of the white person has always been the default front page story to cover, while narratives of People of Colour are too often dismissed.

But it’s not just the media. As white women, we should also reflect on why, if we see a story about a Black woman who was murdered, we are saddened, but we continue to go about our daily lives. But the murder which sparked our nationwide unrest was that of a white woman.

Please don’t get my intention wrong: I don’t mean to insult Sarah’s memory in any way, or disrespect those grieving for her. Nor do I want to take anything away from the women who have faced police repression while protesting on the streets these last few days. I would like us to collectively reflect upon how, when we say nothing about the murders of Black women, we are complicit in upholding a racist society. I would like us to think about how our white silence is, essentially, life-threatening to Women of Colour.

Bibaa and Nicole

Sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman had been celebrating Bibaa’s birthday when they were stabbed to death in a park in Wembley in June 2020. But the news went largely unnoticed by the UK population. Their family even had to search for the women themselves after receiving no immediate help from the Metropolitan Police. Their mother, Mina Smallman, said of the police:

I knew instantly why they didn’t care.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

She added:

They didn’t care because they looked at my daughter’s address and thought they knew who she was. A black woman who lives on a council estate.

Mina was told that when the police did finally come, officers took selfies of themselves with Bibaa and Nicole’s dead bodies. Yes, that’s right: they took selfies. Mina said:

Those police officers dehumanised our children.

She also said:

If ever we needed an example of how toxic it has become, those police officers felt so safe, so untouchable, that they felt they could take photographs of dead black girls and send them on. It speaks volumes of the ethos that runs through the Metropolitan Police.

There were no nationwide vigils for Bibaa and Nicole. And I can’t help but suspect that if it were white women who had been dehumanised by the police in such a way, there would have been nationwide outcry. Surely it would have made every newspaper’s front page.

Wenjing Xu and Geetika Goyal

16-year-old Wenjing Xu was murdered on 5 March, just two days after Sarah went missing. She was stabbed to death near her family’s Chinese takeaway. One man has been arrested for her murder, and for the attempted murder of another man. Wenjing was studying for her GCSEs and was described as a “very gentle soul”.

29-year-old Geetika was stabbed and then left to die on a street by a man in Leicester on 3 March, on the same day that Sarah disappeared.

It’s telling of the society we live in that Wenjing and Geetika received next-to-no mainstream media headlines or even mentions on social media, even though they were murdered in the same week as Sarah.

Bennylyn Burke

25-year-old Bennylyn Burke, from Kingswood, Bristol, was reported missing from her home, along with her two children, on 1 March. A 50-year-old man has been charged with the murder of both Bennylyn and her two-year-old daughter Jellica, while her other daughter was found alive inside the arrested man’s home. It’s thought that the man murdered Bennylyn using a hammer.

Blessing Olusegun

21-year-old Blessing was found dead on a beach in Bexhill on 18 September 2020. No-one has been charged with her murder. Sussex police has treated the case as “unexplained” but not suspicious, with a postmortem stating that she died by drowning. But her family want more answers, and a petition is being circulated, calling for justice for Blessing. Joshua Mellody, who started the petition, argued:

Her death IS suspicious and we will not let it be left “unexplained”. Something happened that night that left blessing lifeless on the beach. The police need to investigate it. The system needs to do better. #justiceforblessing #blacklivesmatter #justiceforwomen

The mainstream media is now making comparisons between Sarah and Blessing, as they were both caught on CCTV, walking at night. But it has taken Sarah’s death for many of us to learn about Blessing for the first time.

Say all of their names

I’ve mentioned just a fraction of the women who’ve been killed by men within the last year. “At least 31 women have been killed by men” just three months into 2021. And according to Karen Ingala Smith:

Since 2009, at least 1,691 women and girls aged 14 and over have been killed by men.

We need to keep the momentum going on the streets, outraged by the death of every single woman, and not just the women singled out by the mainstream media as worthy of us mourning. Someone on Twitter summed this up beautifully:

So, as we raise our voices, not just against men’s violence, but against police and state violence towards women, we need to be shouting the names of all the women we have lost. Sarah, Geetika, Blessing, Wenjing, Bennylyn, Bibaa, Nicole. The list goes on and on. Let’s grieve all of their deaths with outrage, and let’s make sure that we continue to fight for systemic change.

Featured image via a Bristol activist, with permission

 

Support us and go ad-free

Fund our Investigations Unit

You can help us investigate corruption, expose injustice and uncover the truth.

As one of the only independent investigations units in the country, we work for you – but we need your help to keep going. We need to raise £10,000 to continue our groundbreaking investigations. Can you chip in?

The Canary Fund us
  • Show Comments
    1. We need to grieve all women killed. Including those killed by women. And we need to grieve all the men killed too. Men are much more likely to be murdered in public places, or to be involved in violence in general outside the home. We need a campaign against violence. All violence. Violence is always wrong, always a failure. We must not suggest that violence against women is appalling but violence by men on men, well, it’s just blokes, innit? Nor should we forget that there are male victims of domestic violence. Violence is our enemy. All violence.

      1. I actually looked up the figures yesterday on the ONS website. In the year ending March 2020 (latest figures) nearly three times as many men were murdered as women. With a rise in male homicides of 20% and a fall in female homicides of 6%. That does not mean that there isn’t a lot more that needs to be done. There is.

    2. One hundred years ago the word on the streets was “votes for women”. Today it needs to be “vote for women”. Why?
      As Alice Cooper said. “Man has ruled this world as a stumbling, demented child-king long enough!” And what has it gotten us? Endless war. Endless greed. And a planet that is on the verge of terminal collapse.
      Only by electing more women into power will we ever change the world (and save the planet) for the betterment of everyone. It starts in this country in May. It doesn’t matter if they are blue, red, orange or green. Together women can influence local policy for the good of the whole community.
      Take Lincolnshire Council, for example, who decided a couple of years ago to turn off street lights to save money. Would they have made this unsafe decision if the majority of councillors (of all ilks) were female? Probably not. I could have well seen a more sensible outcome. The replacement of old electric street lights with more efficient, and environmentally friendly, solar powerd versions.
      But that’s only May. What about Parliament itself? Surely it’s time to champion The Womens Equality Party? Imagine what a better world it would be for everyone, not just women, if women had an equal say in it’s running.
      If you want to change men, first you have to change the society they live in. And work with those that are willing to change it for the betterment of all.

      1. I don’t agree.
        Personally think it’s sexist to assume women are wiser, less prejudiced or less likely to call for a violent “solution” than men.
        Take Thatcher for example.

        Those that rule should do so on the merit of their actions and not by the content of their trousers.

        1. I don’t disagree. What I am meaning is that a marked reduction in the “alpha males” that run and rule is what is needed.
          Would Thatcher, May, Patel be has hard as they are/were if not for having to get to their talent to the top in an Old Etonian party? Who knows. But an abundance of meritous females on both sides of the house, in my opinion, may well help to “get more done” and neutralise the bombastic elitist boys club that, not only our politics, but business and the media are.
          Would a meritous party leader like Jeremy Corbyn have been treated with such vitriolic slander if not for the neo-liberal bully boys that were scared that their lust for greed and power may have been curtailed.
          I’m not saying things WOULD be different. But unless something changes, it never will. Not for women. Nor for (non aggressive) men.

          1. While we still accept horrific violence and gore as entertainment, then the level of violence against each other will soar.
            We all know the terrible mental consequences of soldiers returning from war, with PTSD, yet the scramble for World of Warcraft next edition speaks volumes about low as society we have fallen.
            When Primary school teachers witness children acting out these 18+ video games in the playground, I’m shocked and saddened for the future.
            I don’t know what the answers are.
            I do know that we need some and fast.
            Violence is not acceptable. Not against anyone.

    3. The ONS statistics are interesting and suggest we’ve got to be careful we aren’t “barking up the wrong tree”. As another respondent has mentioned, about 3 times as many men are killed each year as women. Furthermore, the vast majority of homicides are committed by men. So the problem isn’t specifically the murder of women by men but murders committed by men. Selectively quoting figures for the number of women killed and ignoring the male victims is misleading.

      The questions we should be asking is why are there so many homicides committed by men, what predisposes these men to kill and are there changes that could be made to society, education and the portrayal of and exposure of people to violence in the media, be it real or fictional.

      1. I seem to remember an old science teacher of mine talking about “the aggressive gene”. He told us that it was what made dominant male mice enter buildings first to look for food sources. He also said it was what made men leaders of industry, conquerors of nations and nature, great artists OR psychopaths.
        He never expanded on this to say whether social upbringing played a role in which side of the coin was up. I suspect it does.

        1. I would also guess that a majority of women killed by men are victims of partners or family members. Which would lead me to say:-

          “You can’t choose your family but you CAN choose your friends.”

          They aren’t labelled “bad boys” for fun.

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.